— Published 7 August 2023

The Francophone Games, a Congolese miracle

On Sunday August 6, the curtain came down on the 9th edition of the Francophone Games. The sporting and cultural event ended as it began, on Friday July 28: with a ceremony at the Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, in front of full stands and jubilant crowds.

What can we learn from it? First and foremost, it’s obvious: the Games have taken place. Postponed twice, regularly announced as being on the verge of cancellation, then shunned by several delegations from Europe and North America, they took place on the dates and sites scheduled, without turning into the disaster scenario feared by some observers.

Zeina Mina, General Manager of the International Committee of the Francophone Games (CIJF), summed it up in a video-conference press briefing on the eve of the closing ceremony: “The Francophone Games were held. They took place without the slightest incident, in good conditions. Preparations were difficult, and several sites were completed at the last minute. But things got done. It’s a Congolese miracle. Today, I can say that the host country has succeeded.”

As the Lebanesewoman pointed out in detailing her figures: participation, while not reaching the level of some previous editions, proved to be very respectable. A total of 3,535 participants, including 1,819 athletes and artists. All but a few hundred competitors, a result identical to that of the Francophone Games 2017 in Côte d’Ivoire.

Another lesson, known even before the events began, but confirmed without qualification by the medal rankings: not all countries in the French-speaking world played the game with the same commitment. In short, Africa took the event seriously. Europe and Canada took it in stride, or not at all in the case of Quebec.

A big first: Morocco finished top of the medals table. Fifty-eight places on the podium for the Moroccans, including 23 titles. An impressive feat. Behind them, Romania took a solid second place (28/17), ahead of a trio of African countries (Cameroon, Senegal, Burkina Faso). With 34 medals, but only five gold, the DRC achieved its best-ever harvest. In terms of podium places, the host country even climbed to 4th place. Not a foregone conclusion.

The figures speak for themselves: the Francophone Games are no longer a priority for many of the major countries in the French-speaking world. Far from it. With 15 medals, seven of them gold, France saved appearances, but its delegation was represented in only two sports: wrestling and judo.

Switzerland never left the bottom of the medal table (19th): 5 medals, just one title. Wallonia-Brussels was non-existent (two medals, none gold). As for New Brunswick, the Canadian province initially designated to host the event in Dieppe and Moncton, its delegation left Kinshasa with two bronze medals and 28th place (out of 30 nations) in the nations ranking.

What’s next? For the DRC, Kinshasa 2023 could mark a turning point. Patrick Muyaya, the government spokesman, underlined it at the time of the assessment: “The image transmitted to the world with these Games is priceless.” With the infrastructure built for the occasion, and experience of organization acquired the hard way, the host country can look further ahead, at least initially at African level.

The worst was avoided for the Francophone Games. Cancellation, following New Brunswick’s withdrawal and a double postponement, would undoubtedly have been fatal. But Zeina Mina confirmed to FrancsJeux that two countries have already sent letters of interest to host the Games in 2027. They will be announced in September. According to our information, they are Benin and Armenia. A French city is also said to be considering a bid.

Applications must be submitted by the end of September. An evaluation visit will be organized the following month. The final decision of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) is expected in November 2023.